April 5, 2010  |  MoMA PS1
100 Years: A History of Performance Art

Installation view of 100 Years at P.S.1. Photo by Matthew Septimus

Performance art is in the middle of an extraordinary resurgence in popularity right now, with groundbreaking performance exhibitions at several institutions in the New York area, including the recent Tino Sehgal show at the Guggenheim Museum, the current Tania Bruguera exhibition at the Neuberger Museum, and of course, The Museum of Modern Art’s Marina Abramović exhibition, The Artist is Present. Performance programming is on the rise at biennials and art fairs around the world, and departments devoted to performance art—such as those at MoMA, Tate Modern, and Centre Georges Pompidou—are increasingly being incorporated into the contemporary art museum.

There is no better way to understand this remarkable material, and the reasons behind its current boom, than to visit 100 Years (version #2, ps1, nov 2009), an exhibition on view now through the end of April at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens.

Organized by P.S.1 and Performa on the occasion of Performa 09 (last year’s performance biennial, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Futurist Manifesto), 100 Years is an essential introduction to the history of performance art that has directly shaped the history of twentieth-century art, and that continues to be central to the art and ideas of the first decade of the twenty-first. The exhibition, of material never before gathered in the same gallery space, provides a vital timeline of this history.

Conceived as a “living exhibition” of documentation that will continue to grow exponentially into the future, 100 Years shows the extraordinary variety of “live” performance over the last ten decades. Reprints of Futurist and Dada manifestos are seen side by side with photographs of Oskar Schlemmer‘s Triadic Ballet, films of Francis Picabia‘s Relâche, and Mary Wigman’s Hexentanz in the first room, while unforgettable films (transferred to video) by Yves Klein, Carolee Schneemann, Anna Halprin, Yoko Ono, Trisha Brown, and Yayoi Kusama can be seen in the second. The exhibition leads viewers chronologically through the galleries, with material by Vito Acconci, Ana Mendieta, Matthew Barney, Tania Bruguera, Adrian Piper, and Michael Smith, all the way up to the present day, with material by Allora & Calzadilla, Sigalit Landau, and Ryan Trecartin.

The exhibition also includes a dedicated space for Electronic Arts Intermix, the pioneering resource for video and media art that began collecting and preserving artists’ videos in 1971. A selection from their archives, entitled “45 Years of Performance Video from EAI,” features seminal works by Joan Jonas, Stuart Sherman, and Lynda Benglis, among many others.

Installation view of 100 Years at P.S.1. Photo by Summer Kemick

100 Years is an exhibition I have been dreaming about for many years, and is the title of a talk I gave at Tate Modern in 2003. For me, it is essential that the iconic markers of the history of performance art are as well known to critics, students, and the general public as are the key works of twentieth-century painting and sculpture. How else to fully understand the extraordinary rooms at MoMA featuring the Italian Futurists, Russian Constructivists, or the Surrealists, Yves Klein or Robert Rauschenberg, without reference to the actions that were the source material for the works on display? The history of performance art has been entirely missing from the history of art so far, and it is for this reason that I launched Performa, to set the record straight. For the same reason I was absolutely thrilled when Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1’s chief curator, and Kathy Halbreich, MoMA’s associate director,  jumped at my idea to present 100 Years as part of their Open Studios program, when I proposed it to them last year.

The response to the exhibition has been thrilling; artists, dancers, architects, writers, and critics in a range of disciplines have been returning week after week to study this remarkable material—I am sure that several dissertations must have been started amidst the galleries! I encourage everyone to see this exhibition. We’ll be glad for your feedback, as 100 Years is, after all, a living exhibition that will continue to grow and expand as new work and rediscovered material from the past is added to this extraordinary archive.


Only academics, desperate to create papers, career and reputation, see performance as an art form at all. It is shallow and self abosrbed, narcissistic and sociopathic, vain and avaristic, the very opposition to Modern Art, which is the unification of humanity, nature and god. It is the sins of mankind glorified, with the virtues of love, humility, responsbility, commitment and sacrifice to ones fellow man expelled.

It is but one of the forms that reflected the decadence of our time, that has now ended in the implosion created by this “arts” very Patrons, the robber barons and ponzi schemers of our time. A perfect mirror of the rich mistaken for eternal perfection, Dorian Gray revisted, Imperial Clothing in full regalia. Corruption of soul complete.

God has been expelled from Contempt art, and this has no place in MoMA, it representing and revealing the soulessness ansd vanity of our just ended Gilded Age. Academic art of our time is the Salon of Cezanne’s, the enemy of true creative art, which has returned because of our self abortion and materialistic desires. Art ws not needed by humanity for the alst 50 years, and so come under teh control of a small sect of self involved pseudo intellectuals. Humanity calls for meaning and purpose once more, arts role is called upon.

The Swiss dadaists were draftdodgers and spoiled childen, the Germans veterans who knew war, and were truly Expressionist. Anger at god and humanity are present, but still there in a blasted nature. The Futurists became fascists, Boccioni was the only great artist, though limited to a few years, with a few like Severini creating interesting works that had some emotion. And without emotion, passion, purpose, there is no art.

And perfrormance has none, it is exhibitionism and attempting to glorify oneself by identifying with the “heroic” artist, proving oneself better than others, seperate, by belonging to an elitist club that can understand what inferior beings cannot intuit. It is cultish, a fetishistic ritual of Meism. And so not art at all, and certainly not Modern Art, it has no place in this museum. Take it to the playpen of the New Museum, materialistic shrine it is to individual mans “greatness” LOL! And crying at the same time.

True creative art bonds us together, contempt art splinters for marketing purposes, it is about speculation and self glorfyication, it is the enemy of true creative art. The artist doesnt matter, he has but a role like any other job in humanity. Warrior, farmer, baker. His is to reflect our lives and history, through melody/line, harmony/color, and rhythm/structure, that of humanity, nature and god entwined. It is not therapy for the entitled few, which this most certanly is.

art collegia delenda est
Fine art colleges must be destroyed.
How is that for a manifesto? Though all are for those of limited minds and spirits.

Save the Watts Towers, tear down the Ivories.
Learn how.



If you tend to obliterate the free expression of others’ aesthetic perceptions, even if you think them inane, expect the same to happen toward yours. Our lives are a composition of our priorities with, of course, some interruptions. I have tolerated much but none that deny my right to freely express my authentic self because of disapproval.

Donald… get a shrink!

How typical of artistes screaming free expression. Self expression is for children, adults explore the world, and artists create the myths built of truths that bind us together, and propel Us onward.

I never said dont show this, just that it doesnt belong at MoMA, but some silly kids museums like the New or even Whitney. There really isnt anything worth censoring, its hollow. It doesnt evoke anything but pity on those who wasted their parents monies on art schools. And irritated us who live in the real world with families and work our communities, the 99.5% bored by contempt art, and 20% who can feel creative art. This is illustration of academic and insignificant concepts. These are jesters, entertaining their masters. Therapy for thier amusement.

The world has changed and art needed once more. It is time to put aside childish things.

art colegia delenda est

very good…

If not for our own amusement, should we do it for yours? I don’t think so.

Thank you ps1 for this show and moma for abramovic.

Creative art is not amusement, the current alliance of the “arts” and fashion reveals its shallow nature. Creative art is the highest common denominator of man, not the lowest, which is entertainment. Both necessary, but never the twain shall meet. They are yin and yang, yang now devoured by its effeminant lower nature.

Art is the physical revelation of who WE are, never I. It is what bonds us, where we have evolved to, never a finished product, but always building. When one ignores ones roots and foundations, one whithers and dies. And so we have. Contempt art has reflected the sheltered and decadent rich, not who WE are.

If Monet, Cezanne, and Gauguin were here, they would stand together and point, J’accuse! While Picasso, Matisse and Braque built the bombs.

Save the Watts Towers, tear down the Ivories.

I love it. Thank you. (^!^)

Well said Atomic Elroy!

Long Live and Prosper…Performance Art !

Great reading by Goldberg and we need more of this clarity to provide further context. The Tania Brugera exhibition is great. Go see !


your opinion is as valid as any other, but art is and always will be justified by the individual viewer. don’t waste your energy, and please find somewhere else to self promote.

this exhibit sounds wonderful, and i can’t wait to visit.

thank you, moma/p.s.1!

Its not Modern Art, simple as that, and so belongs elsewhere. The PlaySchool-1 is fine, but MoMA and the Met are supposed to guard our heritage, not degrade itself by getting into entertainment and fashion. This is for the effette, not of mankind.

Artist have always been workers, always worked with their hands, of the earth and “menial” labor, not just sat on their fat duffs and played mental games. If it is not of mind, body AND soul, it isnt creative art. This is for pseudo intellectuals, who have never exerted themselves and so find this lack of verility fascinating and “smart”.

This is aburdist entertainment. Wish I was there, so I could pull up a seat and pull out a chessboard. That self absorbed old sociopath Duchamp would understand.

art collegia delenda est
Save the Watts Towers, tear down the Ivories

Mr. Frazell, you’re quite clearly a very frightened elitist, clinging stubbornly to ideals from an age long gone by. YOU are the embodiment of the Salons that you have so feverishly criticized art institutions of paralleling. YOU are the old world, the ones with their backs turned away from new ideas. Though the intangible endeavors of contemporary artists working in an extension of Conceptual art that is merely the equivalent of beating a dead horse frustrates and confuses me just as much as the next guy, give them their due. They’re sparking discussion about its merits, which is exactly what these kinds of works aim to do. When you start challenging the nature of what they’re doing and why it constitutes as art, you begin to understand its purpose. However, I’m sure this is completely lost to you because any loudmouth critic who can’t wrap his head around Duchamp has no business denouncing this kind of work.

If you would like to challenge these artists, how about YOU go stand around nude on a bicycle seat for six hours? At least then you’d shut up.

i am not that selfish or exhibitionist, I would rather pick up a ball and go play in front of a crowd, not that takes balls, And hard work and real pain, try it sometime, you just might like it, As Cezanne said, a weak body makes for a weak soul, and without soul, there is no art.

It is hilarious hearing you academic types rattle on about how OTHERS are elitist, I didnt waste tens of thousands of dollars on a meaningless MFA, now thats being a snob. i am just hard working man, like all artists, we are craftsmen, workers, always have been, conceptualists are lazy management types, who wouldnt know quality if it sat in front of them,. as they seem to think this silly, boring broad is so hot. LOL!!!

Join us in our work of saving the Watts Towers, the Rev. Chip Murray, retired of the First AME appojnteedme the lead. A great honor from a truly great man, who held things together here during and after the Rodney King revolt. Elitist. LOL!!!

Save the Watts towers, tear down the Ivories
Google me, and join Nuestro Pueblo, it is time.
Art and Purpose, neither comes from the absurdist game playing children who follow grandpa narcissist Duchamp

You don’t need an MFA to be an elitist snob, and you’re a prime example. Art should not inspire the level of hate and resent that you exhibit; if you don’t like it, go respond in a constructive way. The greatest artists–especially the ones you so frequently and obnoxiously quote–took the fight to the canvas (or whatever other platform of expression they desired), not to some comment section on the MoMA website. How’s that for a LOL?

How about you start opening your mind a little to other peoples’ ideas? Ignorance and intolerance doesn’t fly in the art world. Regardless of your opinion on the artform, it exists, and has for sometime. People have spent their entire lives devoted to it, so it must mean something to somebody. Respect should be in the heart of every art enthusiast, especially if you’re not the one creating the art. You’re in no position to criticize.

Oh by the way, please work on your grammar and spelling. It might help you seem a little more professional. I noticed that when you get all angry and sweaty you start pounding the keys in a fervor.

Please see the performance art journal: The Act at http;// covering the work of Allan Kaprow and others.

Hell YES, Richard. Ignorance and intolerance DO NOT manage well in the art world. I suggest that Donald put on his big girl panties and deal with it. Donald, you may not understand or agree with performance art, but you should Damn well RESPECT IT. As a fellow artist you should not critique and judge, but take the time to explore the art that people have devoted their entire lives pursuing with passion and fervor. A small mind is obstinate, Donald.

Hey Donald.

You said “Self expression is for children” Well then, I’m surprised you can even type since you’re expressing yourself on here.. you must be 2 years old. You have the right attitude.

You also said “Art is what bonds us” Well, clearly this art piece has bonded many people in thought.

Even your paintings on your blog, and the work you discuss can blend into any idea. You said the coming together of people and music at the Watts towers can be thought of as art. You typed that. There you have it. When people perform an action thought of as art, it isn’t always contradictory to your religious beliefs.

Just as SHW posted, “your opinion is as valid as any other, but art is and always will be justified by the individual viewer.”

It’s so silly for you to be so ignorant with your ideas. I just hope you can open up and enjoy life more. “Live with art, it’s good for you”

performance art, i think at least, is as pure a form of expression as art can get. it by passes the traditional notion of an object as separate from the artist, now the object and artist are one in the same or joined with.

Wow. This thread is incredible. Thank you all for your input, even you, Mr. Frazell.

I would like to point out that by using forums like this to declare that performance art is not art, or is self-aggrandizing, or to denounce the current state of art is to reduce the scope of art. The general position of well-meaning artists is to expand the interpretation and meaning of art, not to erect boundaries around it, and confine it to antiquated definitions.

Funny, how a person who seeks to re-inject god into art forgets not to judge, lest he be judged.

And I’ll take my snobby MFA-there’s nothing highfalutin about being an educated, engaged member of my community.

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